A throwback from 2007 that many of you can relate to as your children start a new school year.
I am a woman on the verge of freedom. After sixteen years at home, the youngest of my four sons is off to a full day of Kindergarten in the fall. I am at the same time, elated and depressed. I alternate between euphoria at the possibilities that are opening up for me, and hysterical tears as I experience each last milestone with my baby. Preschool is over. We sat together for the last time at First Friday Mass, waving at his big brothers. Next time I go, he will be sitting with his classmates. He is done with Eager Beavers at the YMCA. I no longer have a child to take to the playgroup I have been attending weekly for 8 years. Even as we go shopping at the grocery store, I am reminded that come fall, I can do this by myself. Think of the money I will save! And how quickly I will get it done! Then the tears start, as I realize my constant companion will be otherwise occupied come September.
I should be happy, right? Everywhere I go, I see mothers with young children. I remember how tiring it is to carry a car seat, reason with a 2 year old, nurse a baby for the third time in 2 hours, race home before naptime, and beg a six year old to run and get me a diaper, again. I vividly remember the energy it took to take care of all of them and their needs, while mine forever took a back seat. I see the fatigue in my friends’ faces whose schedules still revolve around their little ones. I hear it in my clients’ voices when I try to reassure them that this particular phase won’t last forever. I am frequently reminded of a quote from one of my favorite authors, Kathleen Huggins. “If you find it hard, it’s because it is hard.” And it was.
But it has also been one of the best things I have ever done. And if I had more money and energy, and was a little bit younger, I would do it all over again. I’d love the chance to get another marriage proposal from a 3 year old or have a 5 year old tell me, “Mom, you’re my whole world.” I want to have a newborn stop crying immediately when I pick him up and feel a little hand grab a hold of mine while walking through a crowd. I’d even love to rock my sick toddler in my arms in the middle of the night. These are the memories that I cherish, and long for.
And yet, this phase of my life is almost over. And in so many ways, the new phase is terrific. I have built-in babysitters and can go out to dinner with my husband, or for a run in the morning before anyone wakes up. We actually get where we are going mostly on time now and my youngest prides himself on helping me. My 9 year old will still talk to me when no one else in the family wants to. I love nothing more than sitting on the couch with my two teenagers, rehashing the day, and laughing till I cry when I hear of their escapades. I am amazed at the men they are all becoming, and excited for their futures.
So, what is a woman to do in this situation? I have agonized about it, and finally decided. I am getting a puppy. It’s a boy and he’s coming home Labor Day Weekend. But don’t tell my kids! It’s a surprise, and we are on to our next phase.